Talking the Walk: The Road Safety Review Team gives roadway safety its undivided attention

What better way to see first-hand the challenges and opportunities for making Asheville’s streets safer for pedestrians, bicycles, and drivers than putting feet to the street? That’s the idea behind the City of Asheville’s Road Safety Review Team. This collaborative effort combines the professional knowledge of departments across the city organization as well as state experts.

Information provided by the public is invaluable in identifying areas where roadway safety can be improved, but often the solution can be more complicated than it seems on the surface. Sight lines, plant growth, crosswalks, signaling and street design can all factor in making an area safer for all users, especially pedestrians and bicyclists. And infrastructure changes can impact anything from utilities to emergency response access.

That’s where the Road Safety Review Team comes in. Traffic Engineer Jeff Moore explains that the team was put together to visit sites, share information and get expertise from as many angles as possible. “Sometimes, there are considerations that lie outside Transportation’s, or even the city’s, scope,” he says. “It’s better when we have everyone there at the same time where we can usually come up with an answer.”

The group is made up of staff from Transportation, Public Works, Planning, the Fire Department, the Police Department, the Communication and Public Engagement Division and members of the Neighborhood Advisory Committee.  The group even benefits from the expertise of representatives of the North Carolina Department of Transportation who provide insight from dealing with cities throughout the Western NC Region.

The results can actually mean savings and less disturbance to surrounding neighborhoods, as shown in a October 2013 visit to Fairview Road at the intersection of Glendale Avenue. Moore recalls that vegetation and a slight curve were obscuring the view of the traffic light. That, and the speed of drivers on the road made the signal visibility a concern. The result was the relocation of the light for better visibility. “Because this intersection is maintained by the City of Asheville, we were able to make the changes with our team.  We already had the materials,” Moore said. “We did that one with just labor.”

With the speed research and the enforcement input of the Police Department, the team also recommended reducing the speed limit there from 30 to 25 miles per hour – a step approved by Asheville City Council.

Since then, site visits have resulted in a four-way stop on Hillside Street, a customized crosswalk at Murdock Avenue that allows safe access to a daycare facility and conversations begun in October with the residents around Kimberly Avenue on road safety options that are currently in progress.

“We try to do this about every two months,” Moore said. “Getting all these viewpoints really helps us make a good decision.  I am grateful for the willingness of the team members to use their expertise to help make our roads safer for all users.”